Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

International entities have commended the peace agreement inked between the Ethiopian government and the leaders of the Tigray region, aiming to cease the intense conflict in the country’s northern part and facilitate aid delivery to those facing famine. Nonetheless, doubts persist about the truce’s longevity and effectiveness.

A brief introductory note: Just a day subsequent to the celebratory events marking the agreement’s signing in Pretoria, South Africa, artillery fire echoes persistently resonate across the Tigray mountains.

The accord aligns significantly with the goals set forth by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who initiated a “law enforcement operation” against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) nearly two years ago. The agreement outlines a procedure for the negotiated disarmament of Tigrayan forces.

A notable point of progress is that the deal was struck directly with the TPLF, bypassing the “Government of Tigray” as initially demanded by the Tigrayans. In doing so, Mr. Abiy dismisses the 2020 Tigray elections won by the TPLF and signals the preparation for new elections.

Contrarily, the federal government initially insisted on a complete surrender by the TPLF, which it did not secure. Nonetheless, it has committed to lifting the terrorist designation of the TPLF and initiating political dialogues regarding the governance of Tigray.

Both parties have agreed to adhere to the existing federal constitution, particularly in addressing the fate of areas like the agriculturally prosperous western Tigray, which fell under the Amhara region’s control early in the conflict. The agreement, however, remains ambiguous about the reinstatement of the Tigrayan administration and the return of displaced farmers.

The humanitarian aspect of the agreement potentially paves the way to alleviate the starvation and deprivation that have claimed up to a million lives, including an estimated 10% of Tigray’s six million residents, based on findings from Belgian academics.

Following two years of blockade, famine, and relentless military onslaught from Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces, the Tigrayan leaders made substantial concessions, driven by the imperative to safeguard their people’s survival.

Media focus: WATCH: Tigray refugees offer insights into the region’s conditions.

Over a million individuals have been displaced since the conflict escalation in August, left unable to cultivate their crops. People are succumbing to treatable ailments as medical facilities deplete their supplies of essential medications like insulin and antibiotics, with no imminent solution in sight. For the millions deprived of basic necessities, the delivery of aid is critically urgent.

Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

Critical Questions Unanswered:

  1. Eritrea’s Role: Despite its integral role in breaching Tigrayan defenses, the agreement does not explicitly mention Eritrea. The text includes a clause about ceasing “collusion with any external force hostile to either party,” possibly alluding to Eritrea. Many doubt the Ethiopian federal government’s capacity to enforce this, as Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki, not being a signatory, could potentially persist in military engagements regardless of the truce.
  2. Monitoring and Verification: The truce showcases Ethiopia’s diplomatic prowess in limiting international intervention. A small group, no larger than ten individuals reporting to the African Union (AU) panel led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, will oversee the agreement’s implementation. The UN is entirely excluded, and only a handful of international entities observed the negotiations, none of which are signatories. This leaves significant room for skepticism regarding the efficacy and impartiality of the oversight.
  3. Justice and Accountability: The truce mandates the establishment of a “comprehensive national transitional justice policy” by the Ethiopian government, omitting any reference to potential international investigations. The onus now falls on the federal government to uphold its commitments and demonstrate its dedication to achieving lasting peace.

Tigrayans, both within Ethiopia and abroad, have expressed their discontent with the agreement, viewing it as a capitulation. Some Tigrayan leaders may prefer a continuation of armed resistance over accepting what they perceive as degrading terms of peace.

While many in the global community are hopeful that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will lead Ethiopia back towards peace, democracy, and stability, there are concerns that the means employed during this conflict could set a precedent for addressing future political challenges.

The agreement’s success ultimately hinges on the federal government’s sincerity and commitment to its implementation. The initial test of this commitment was the cessation of hostilities following the agreement, a condition that was not immediately met as reports of ongoing combat and military movements in the region continued to surface.

The credibility of the AU and the international observers present during the negotiations now rests on their willingness to hold all parties accountable for any deviations from the agreed-upon terms.

Continued Accountability and Future Prospects: The situation in the Tigray region remains precarious, and the world watches closely to see if the parties involved will adhere to the terms of the truce. The agreement represents a significant step forward, but its success hinges on consistent and transparent enforcement as well as the commitment of all parties to work towards lasting peace.

International Involvement and Support: The international community has a crucial role to play in supporting the implementation of the truce and ensuring that aid reaches those in need. The United Nations, along with various humanitarian organizations, must be granted unrestricted access to the Tigray region to deliver vital assistance and monitor the situation on the ground.

The Role of the African Union: The African Union (AU) has been instrumental in brokering the truce, and its continued involvement is vital for its success. The AU must remain vigilant and proactive in overseeing the agreement’s implementation, addressing any violations promptly, and facilitating dialogue between the parties.

Challenges and Opportunities: Despite the truce, significant challenges remain. Trust needs to be rebuilt after years of conflict, and the Tigrayan population requires urgent humanitarian assistance. There is also the broader task of national reconciliation and addressing the underlying issues that led to the conflict.

However, the truce also allows Ethiopia to turn a new page and work towards a more inclusive and stable future. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has the chance to demonstrate his leadership and commitment to unity by ensuring the agreement is implemented in good faith and addressing the grievances of the Tigrayan population.

The International Community’s Role: The international community must remain engaged and continue to provide support to Ethiopia during this critical time. This includes providing humanitarian aid, assisting in the rebuilding of infrastructure, and offering technical support to ensure free and fair elections are held.

Conclusion: The truce in Tigray is a significant achievement and offers a glimmer of hope for the people of Ethiopia. However, its success depends on the commitment of all parties to adhere to the terms of the agreement and work towards a lasting peace. The Ethiopian government, the TPLF, the AU, and the international community must all play their part in ensuring the truce holds and that the people of Tigray receive the support they need. Through collective effort, Ethiopia can hope to overcome the challenges ahead and build a brighter future for all its citizens.

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